(29.01.2000 - Juhani Artto) The Metalworker and Construction Worker Unions were the first to conclude collective agreements in the current negotiating round. These one-year agreements are valid until 31 January 2001.

The cost of the agreements is 3.1 per cent. In mid-January the government eased the path to these settlements by cutting income tax by an amount corresponding to a 1.0 per cent rise in real incomes.

With inflation expectations running at around 2.0 per cent or less, these two agreements will mean a slight increase in the real incomes of workers.

Labour market experts believe that the two agreements, covering about 200.000 workers, will set the trend for other industries to follow. Since the engineering and construction industry compromises several smaller agreements have been made. All of these match the pay hikes in engineering and construction.

The agreements contain few qualitative changes. The rights of shop stewards and labour protection representatives have been extended in the metal industry. Shop stewards will be entitled to information about subcontractors, which it is believed will help to combat the grey economy.

The unions failed in their bid to shorten working hours.

In September 1999 a group of powerful industrial unions affiliated to SAK rejected proposals for a third consecutive comprehensive incomes policy agreement. The two previous agreements, made in 1996 and 1998, were negotiated between the employers central organisations and the three central trade union confederations SAK, STTK and Akava.

The reasons underlying the failure to find a common policy lay mainly in industry-specific problems which are difficult to solve in the context of comprehensive incomes policy agreements. Wide disparities in rates of productivity improvement also led to variations in the starting points of the unions, and likewise between the employer organisations.

Difficult negotiations have been forecast in a few major industries such as papermaking and power generation. The entire round may not end before April or May, since some of the old agreements are valid until the Spring.

On 29 January more than 600,000 of the 2.6 million wage and salary earners have a new collective agreement.

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Read also: New Incomes Policy Round is rejected by SAK unions
(29.09.1999 - Leena Seretin on SAK's web site)